|Barry Bonds indicted on perjury, obstruction charges|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 15 November 2007 20:52|
Barry Bonds was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice Thursday and could go to prison instead of the Hall of Fame for telling a federal grand jury he did not knowingly use performance-enhancing drugs.
The indictment came just three months after the San Francisco Giants star broke Hank Aaron's career home run record, and it culminated a four-year investigation into steroid use by elite athletes.
But for all the speculation and accusations that clouded his pursuit of Aaron, Bonds was never identified by Major League Baseball as testing positive for steroids, and personal trainer Greg Anderson spent most of the last year in jail for refusing to testify against his longtime friend.
Then came the indictment - four counts of perjury, one of obstruction of justice; a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison - and Bonds' lawyers seemed caught off guard.
The 10-page report mainly consists of excerpts from Bonds' December 2003 testimony before a grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO. It cites 19 occasions in which Bonds allegedly lied under oath.
``I'm surprised,'' said one of his lawyers, John Burris, ``but there's been an effort to get Barry for a long time. I'm curious what evidence they have now they didn't have before.''
Burris said he didn't know of the indictment before being alerted by The Associated Press. He said he would call Bonds to notify him.
Anderson was released from prison after the indictment was handed up and refused comment as he walked out.
His attorney, Mark Geragos, said the trainer didn't cooperate with the grand jury.
``This indictment came out of left field,'' Geragos said. ``Frankly, I'm aghast. It looks like the government misled me and Greg as well, saying this case couldn't go forward without him.''
Bonds is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Dec. 7.
Defense attorney Mike Rains said he spoke briefly with Bonds but did not describe his reaction. At an evening news conference, he read a statement accusing federal prosecutors of ``unethical misconduct'' and declined to take questions.
``Every American should worry about a Justice Department that doesn't know if waterboarding is torture and can't tell the difference between prosecution on the one hand and persecution on the other,'' Rains said.
In August, when the 43-year-old Bonds became the career home run leader, he flatly rejected any suggestion that the milestone was stained by steroids.
``This record is not tainted at all. At all. Period,'' Bonds said.
But while San Franciscans cheered his every swing and fans elsewhere scorned every homer, a grand jury quietly worked behind closed doors to put the finishing touches on its report.
``During the criminal investigation, evidence was obtained including positive tests for the presence of anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing substances for Bonds and other athletes,'' the indictment said.
Bonds is by far the highest-profile figure caught up in the steroids probe, which also ensnared track star Marion Jones. She pleaded guilty in October to lying to federal investigators about using steroids and faces up to six months in prison.
The Giants, the players' union and even the White House called it a sad day for baseball.
``This is a very sad day. For many years, Barry Bonds was an important member of our team and is one of the most talented baseball players of his era. These are serious charges. Now that the judicial process has begun, we look forward to this matter being resolved in a court of law,'' the Giants said.
Union head Donald Fehr said he was ``saddened'' to learn of the indictment, but cautioned that ``every defendant, including Barry Bonds, is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless and until such time as he is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.''
In Washington, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said: ``The president is very disappointed to hear this. As this case is now in the criminal justice system, we will refrain from any further specific comments about it. But clearly this is a sad day for baseball.''
Commissioner Bud Selig withheld judgment, saying, ``I take this indictment very seriously and will follow its progress closely.''
Bush, who once owned the Texas Rangers, called Bonds to congratulate him in August when the Giants' outfielder broke the home run mark. ``You've always been a great hitter and you broke a great record,'' Bush said at the time.
Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, who is investigating drug use in baseball, declined comment.
The Hall of Fame currently has an exhibit dedicated to Bonds' record-breaking 756th home run.
``As a historic museum, we have no intention of taking the exhibit down,'' Hall vice president Jeff Idelson said.
Bonds finished last season with 762 career home runs, seven more than Aaron. A seven-time NL MVP, he also holds the season record with 73 home runs in 2001.
He is a free agent after being told late in the season that Giants didn't want him back next year.
Bonds was charged in the indictment with lying when he said he didn't knowingly take steroids given to him by Anderson. Bonds is also charged with lying that Anderson never injected him with steroids.
``Greg wouldn't do that,'' Bonds testified in December 2003 when asked if Anderson ever gave him any drugs that needed to be injected. ``He knows I'm against that stuff.''
Prosecutors promised Bonds they wouldn't charge him with any drug-related counts if he testified truthfully. But according to the indictment, Bonds repeatedly denied taking any steroids or performance-enhancing drugs despite evidence to the contrary.
For instance, investigators seized a so-called ``doping calendar'' labeled ``BB'' during a raid of Anderson's house.
``He could know other BBs,'' Bonds replied when shown the calendar during his testimony.
Asked directly if Anderson supplied him with steroids, Bonds answered: ``Not that I know of.'' Bonds even denied taking steroids when he was shown documents revealing a positive steroids test for a player named Barry B.
``I've never seen these documents,'' Bonds said. ``I've never seen these papers.''
The indictment does not explain where prosecutors obtained those results, but they likely were conducted at BALCO. Bonds first visited in November 2000 and submitted to the series of urine and drug tests conducted by BALCO founder Victor Conte on every athlete who went through the lab.
The test results may have been seized when federal agents raided BALCO in September 2003.
Conte said Thursday the tests were administered to protect athletes from taking legal supplements contaminated with illegal steroids. But he said he had no way of knowing Bonds' test results because the samples were assigned numbers rather than names.
``The reason for the testing wasn't to circumvent the system,'' Conte said. ``It was to protect the athletes.''
Bonds said at the end of the 2003 season, Anderson rubbed some cream on his arm that the trainer said would help him recover. Anderson also gave him something he called ``flax seed oil,'' Bonds said.
Bonds then testified that prior to the 2003 season, he never took anything supplied by Anderson - which the indictment alleges was a lie because the doping calendars seized from Anderson's house were dated 2001.
Bonds has long been shadowed by allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs. The son of former big league star Bobby Bonds, Barry broke into the majors with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1986 as a lithe, base-stealing outfielder.
By the late 1990s, he'd bulked up to more than 240 pounds - his head, in particular, becoming noticeably bigger. His physical growth was accompanied by a remarkable power surge.
Speculation of his impending indictment had mounted for more than a year, but the specter of steroid allegations have shadowed him for much longer.
The government's steroids probe went public in September 2003, when federal agents raided the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) - the Burlingame-based supplements lab that was the center of a steroids distribution ring.
Bonds joins a parade of defendants tied to the BALCO investigation, including Anderson, who served three months in prison and three months of home detention after pleading guilty to steroid distribution and money laundering.
BALCO founder Victor Conte also served three months in prison after he pleaded guilty to steroids distribution. But Conte has long insisted that Bonds didn't get steroids from his lab.
Associated Press Writer Chris Weber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.